Is Hulk Hogan the Greatest WWE Superstar Ever?
Hulk Hogan(real name Terry Gene Bollea) is synonymous with professional wrestling as one of the greatest icons of the business. He is considered by many as the first "face of WWE"(succeeded by Stone Cold, The Rock & John Cena) and took the company into a new era, 'The Golden Era' and the wrestling boom period.
Long before he became The Immortal One, Terry Bollea was born in Augusta, Georgia on August 11th, 1954. He moved to Port Tampa, Florida at a very young age, and till date resides in Florida. It was Jack and Gerald Briscoe who spotted him at Hector's Gym in Tampa Bay who were impressed with Hogan's physique and pursued Hogan to join as a trainee for Championship Wrestling from Florida. He was trained by the legendary Hiro Matsuda, who also trained big names such as "Cowboy" Bob Orton, The Great Muta, Scott Hall, Paul Orndoff and Ron Simmons.
Hogan soon quit wrestling as Matsuda was too rough on the edges. He moved out of Florida and after time away from pro-wrestling, went back and had his debut in August of 1977. After a run in NWA, he would eventually join the WWF, where he had a one-year stint, playing a heel known as "Hulk Hogan".
He would then jump ship to New Japan Pro Wrestling, where he spent the next five years of his career. After winning a tournament, Hogan became the first IWGP(International Wrestling Grand Prix) Heavyweight Champion, although this isn't considered the start of the title's lineage. Around the same time, from 1981 to 1983, Hogan made his debut for American Wrestling Association, where he not only turned face, but he had made an appearance on Rocky III, helping his stock grow for his eventual WWF return in 1983.
When he returned to WWF, the ownership was now under Vincent Kennedy McMahon, and not Vincent J. McMahon. Hulk Hogan would become the first real "face of WWF/E" during the company's national expansion and wrestling boom.
Leading the company, Hogan would headline the first three WrestleManias and after a one-year gap, would main event eight straight WrestleManias(the most of all time, and the most consecutive of all time). Through the Golden Era, Hogan would not only become the most popular wrestler in the world but would also go on to become a pop-culture icon around the world. He would become wrestling's undisputed biggest draw and Hulkamania would run wild for years.
Some of his most memorable allies and rivals through the years included the likes of Brutus "The Barber" Beefcake, "Macho Man" Randy Savage, Jake "The Snake" Roberts, Bobby "The Brain" Heenan, Earthquake, Sid Justice, Undertaker, Andre The Giant and many more. Hogan's charisma ensured that he remained on top of the WWF food chain for years to come.
However, around 1992, it seemed like Hulkamania began to sour among fans. The first possible indication of this was during the critically acclaimed 1992 Royal Rumble match, where Hulk Hogan was eliminated by the heel Sid Justice, who got cheered in the process. During their heated confrontation post-match(which was won by Ric Flair) saw a heated argument that saw the fans turn their backs on the fan favorite Hogan.
After a period of time off, Hulk Hogan wrestled at WrestleMania IX, teaming with real-life best friend Brutus Beefcake in a losing effort to Money Inc. After Bret Hart's loss to Yokozuna in the main event later that night, Hogan would come out and take on then-new WWF Champion Yokozuna to an impromptu match, which he won in 22-seconds, becoming WWF Champion again.
He would then drop the title back to Yokozuna in the King Of The Ring PPV a few months later, after which he sat out his contract and then had a brief return to NJPW, before signing for an iconic run with World Championship Wrestling(WCW).
Hogan won the WCW World Heavyweight Championship on his debut match against Ric Flair. He would hold on to the title for a long period of time, and two years later, the unthinkable happened when Hulk Hogan turned heel for the first time since the early 1980s and joined the nWo with Kevin Nash and Scott Hall.
Hogan's heel turn was a shocking change in the wrestling world and the NWO soon became wrestling's top faction. With six world championships under his belt, Hogan would help elevate WCW to a level above WWF, beating them in television ratings for 82 consecutive weeks.
Despite everything and a great run, Hogan would leave WCW in 2000 at Bash Of The Beach after a controversial finish in a match against Jeff Jarrett. It would only take another two years for Hogan to return home to the WWE, where he came back along with Scott Hall and Kevin Nash as part of the nWo.
His return after nine years was met with a thunderous response, and despite playing the heel, was constantly cheered throughout, especially during his dream WrestleMania match with The Rock at WrestleMania X8. His popularity would eventually result in him going right back to Hulkamania, where he would win the WWF championship a month after WrestleMania from Triple H, only to lose it shortly to The Undertaker. Hogan was technically
the last "WWF" Champion as this was the time the title and the company was re-branded to WWE.
After a match with the then-up-and-coming Brock Lesnar, Hogan took a hiatus and returned in 2003, where he briefly feuded with The Rock and then faced Vince McMahon at WrestleMania XIX. He quit WWE later that year due to creative frustration. He returned in 2005 and briefly teamed up with Shawn Michaels before feuding with him in a SummerSlam 2005 match, which was subject of controversy.
This was because Shawn Michaels oversold all of Hogan's moves during the match, being upset that he had to lose because he was "clearly the better performer". Despite this, the two shook hands at the end of the match. Hogan later feuded with Randy Orton in 2007, resulting in a SummerSlam match which Hogan won.
Hogan would have a four-year stint in TNA which involved both backstage and on-screen roles. Between 2014 and 2015, Hogan made sporadic appearances for WWE, appearing at WrestleMania 30 as the host, inducting the late "Macho Man" Randy Savage to the WWE Hall Of Fame. He also appeared at WrestleMania 31 along with the nWo for the Triple H vs Sting match. He was one of the three judges on Tough Enough before the infamous scandal saw him fired by WWE.
Hulk Hogan's racist scandal was a result of a leaked audio tape about eight years prior. The negative publicity saw WWE release him, erase him from history and remove him from the Hall Of Fame. Hulk Hogan has since publicly apologized several times, and the wounds seem to have slowly healed.
Around later 2016-early 2017, WWE began to slowly mention Hulk Hogan on programming again. As of 2018, he is not in the same bad graces with the company anymore. As of March 23rd, 2018, WWE confirmed to PWInsider in a statement that they are in talks with Hogan, though he's not under any contract:
“We have had discussions with Terry Bollea (aka Hulk Hogan) about how he can help others learn from his mistakes, however, he is not under any contract with WWE.”
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Hulk Hogan is a 12-time World Champion, winning six times in WWE and WCW respectively.